Thursday, January 04, 2007

Amtrakked

I should preface this by saying that the writing that follows is 10 1/2 years old. When I posted this the other night, I thought I had edited out the over-the-top references to my now ex, whose name peppers this stew in a most unappealing way. I'll edit it later. But for now, enjoy a travelogue from the sort-of distant past, when I was but a young lad of 23, with a whole lot of youthful optimism and full of romantic notions. Bwa ha ha ha. Fool I was!



Amtrakked



Moving from Long Island to Seattle by train is quite the experience. Next time, remind me to take a plane. 19 hours to get to Chicago, at least 15 of them I spent next to a really tall wannabe woodland creature. He got on near Albany. He rolled his own tobacco, he packed his own meals which resembled bark and rice patties covered in what looked like chocolate. At night he took off his boots and put on his sandals. I hate sandals. Mostly because I hate looking at people’s feet. This is due to the fact that most sandal-wearers seem to have dirty feet. He didn’t put his boots back on until Chicago. Lucky for me, he had been gone for a long stretch between Ohio and Indiana.
I have spent a good deal of this trip listening to Slint’s Spiderland and Bedhead’s Beheaded and reading Jim Carroll’s Fear of Dreaming. I have listened to other cds during this time as well, often while reading, but those two cds command me to listen wholly and to do nothing but watch my surroundings as I take in the meanings of the songs. I have listened to Spiderland numerous times before, but until this train ride, had never quite understood it all. I am in awe of the imagery used to describe simple things. Of course, no matter what the meaning, the song “Good Morning Captain” has always and will always make me think of Christina, the reason for this journey, the light at the end of this long tunnel. If you ask me what could make a man spend three days on a train, she is my answer.
She is always my answer. What other reasons do you need to live? I’ve only known her for 10 months, but I have a good feeling unlike any other good feeling that has come before. I know that she loves me at least as much as I love her. She gives to me as much as I give to her. She buys me books, I buy her music, we open each other’s ears, hearts and minds. Without her, I would not own this Jim Carroll book, which has helped me enjoy this particularly long train ride through the most boring parts of the United States.
Now that I have started writing, the scenery seems to be improving. C’est la vie. We’re approaching Denver. Up until now, the most exciting scenery has been multiple pickup trucks on cinderblocks in somebody’s front lawn in Indiana. (black on white FILA basketball clodhoppers with navy blue socks -- not a good idea).
Christina is a good reason to move 3000 miles away from what I have called home for 23 years. I mean, I still have a job with the same company, I am still the same person, I will just be far away. Christina and I will make a good home together, I am sure of it, even though I know I will drive her crazy in a matter of weeks. I just cannot stand the pain of missing her any longer. As much as I might miss my family, talking on the phone has a better chance of alleviating that condition than it would with Christina...
All these months I have longed to hold her, and here I am, a day-and-a-half away from it becoming a reality. Although I most likely miss the comforts of my former home, my new home will free me from some of the shackles of such comfort. Perhaps now I will be able to spend more time on making my own music, writing my poetry and less watching TV.
We are at Denver now. There is snow on the ground and on some of the cars. There has been snow on the ground for the last two hours. I have never seen snow in September. Even when I went to school in upstate New York, it didn’t snow until at least late October. There was no Autumn in Oswego. The leaves didn’t get to change colors before they fell off the trees. They just fell. Sort of like the way I fell for Christina. No time to change colors -- I just fell, with no warning.
This train ride has been good for me emotionally, if not so healthy from a physical perspective. It gives me three days to myself while I make the transition from first born of two sons to “commitment guy.” Three days on a train to myself to metamorphose from a kid to full-blown adult. So, naturally, I am doing what I always want to do, but never seemed to get the chance to at my former home: listen to music, read a book and write a story. I am now listening to Elevator to Hell. It makes me wish I had brought along my Eric’s Trip cds, but they are amongst the first things I packed, of course.
The breakfast/lunch food place at the train station was out of breakfast sandwiches. I had to eat a bagel in Denver. It wasn’t bad, but it was plain. I gave my jam to some guy...
*ANNOUNCEMENT* “The lounge car is now open. Come in, have a coffee or coke and meet the other people on the train”*
Wow, what a good idea! Can I please talk to these rugged, outdoorsy men with backpacks that weigh more than I do attached surgically to their hips along with their overalls? I especially want to talk to the woodsman with the yellow shirt under his black overalls. Is he a Stryper fan or a bumblebee in disguise?
I feel bad for the coolest guy in the world, the one with the FILA sneakers, the navy blue socks, the hip shades and the 49ers jacket. He is now stuck with one of the most decrepit women. Mother Theresa is in better shape. She looks like her head wants to give up the struggle, but her body keeps walking to spite her imploding cranium as it caves in slowly. Soon it will be nap time. No one is sitting next to me. That is why I returned to my seat at first call. I do not like surprises. I also prefer the people next to me to be young ladies. I feel more at ease with them than most guys. I don’t know why. Maybe women are just more open as a general rule.
Last night I ate dinner on the train with a nice elderly gentleman who had been a professor at several universities and had spent time in Tunisia. Not bad for a young boy from Kentucky. He told me stories about his youth, an Arab professor he once knew, who had an affair with a young French woman, with whom he would eat pork (because his children were raised Muslim, he would dare not show them his vices). The Arab professor and his young mistress would dine at George’s house to eat pork, which is not Kosher to Jew nor Arab. He told me about his cars, as well as the way the Arab professor drove his car right into a train, killing both he and his French mistress. I felt like Camus’ Stranger, only telling him my occupation, where I came from, where I was going and why, and what I really wanted to do. I forgot to ask him what he taught for all those years. He couldn’t finish his prime rib, but found enough room for a slice of pie a la mode. They had no cheesecake, so i ate no dessert.
(Oh wow! Smurf graffiti! Just outside of Greeley, Colorado. What a dangerous gang they must have here!)
I am so glad I don’t smoke. If I did, this train ride would seem even longer. An honest-to-goodness western trailer park. Could you imagine - “Home is where the car is.” Isn’t it Smurf-tastic? They are building big immobile homes right around this here trailer park. What would Stuart say?
As I listen to Superchunk, I ask myself why I did not bring Portastatic as well. Then I remind myself that I brought along a lot of cds I have never listened to before so that I could decide if I wanted to sell them once I get to Seattle. Greeley, Co - we are there. Please don’t let anyone get on here and sit next to me. i see some people getting off. The new people can have their seats. We are moving again. Relief.
Three days on a train. In the middle of nowhere. Why is there no shower car on this train? I took a shower last on Tuesday. It is Friday now, and I won’t get to Seattle until Saturday night. Damn this train is bumpy now. Thank goodness I am not shaving. Boy that would suck. It would be most un-Smurftastic. is this the train to Seattle, or is it some traveling geriatric ward? I thought old people went to Florida to die.
The A&W Superstore next to a Lutheran Church. We are in God’s Country now. Which brings me to my next thought. Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, just passed, and it is a day of remembrance of dead relatives. i wonder why it is that my grandfather, who has been gone for a year and a half, had to go so soon. He was not shriveled up and drooling like these old prunes who cannot even walk about on this train (oh look, a parade of geriatric shoes). He still had contributions to make to his community. A year and a half, and it still is as fresh in my mind as yesterday. He always made me smile. Now I think about him and i just want to cry. I think my whole family feels this way, too. His was the first death that really threw me for a loop. Everyone else was old and decrepit. I miss some of them, too, but I don’t have memories of them the way I have memories of him.
Three days on a train, one pair of pants, worn without relief of a night shift. I suppose I will change my clothes (except my pants, of course) again tonight. It feels good to sleep in clean clothes. I still wish they had a shower car. My hair feels greasy. There is now a family of three next to me. The father is in the seat next to me. He seems nice. They are going to Evanston, Wyoming. That is not far from wherever we are now. I don’t think it will be too bad. When this cd is over, i will go to the lounge car and see what I can munch on there. I am just about hungry.
Wooden barricades in the middle of an empty field. Fences with no neighbors. The ground is dotted with snow, resembling my dandruffy, 3 day unwashed hair. I have written so much that since I am writing on my pad backwards, I already wrote past the original pages that I had allotted and am now going backwards from where I started. It is lunchtime.
I am in the lounge car now, now that there is a lounge car here. They added it on in Denver. I had a chicken breast sandwich, lovingly nuked for 30 seconds. Next to me, two old couples are playing pinochle. Trump is “red” - not hearts or diamonds individually - but “red.” One man gets up at the end of the hand. He comes back and doesn’t remember that he lost. Now they are trying to figure out who dealt last. We go through a tunnel and they all shout “Hey, who turned out the lights?” They are just like kids, except that they play pinochle. They amuse me. I think “black” is trump this hand. I look over at their cards, they look similar to “Uno” cards. They have big numbers on them, and they come in yellow, green, red and black. Now I know, but I still don’t understand. They point out needlessly that there are other railroad tracks besides ours. Like when I was little and would state the obvious. Old people are from Ork. Trump is “black” again.
The smoking stop is “Laramie.” Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? Because you’re never too young to smoke, except for that town where it is illegal to carry tobacco products when you’re under 18.
It is Saturday. 11:00 am. Everything sucks today. As I was listening to the new Archers of Loaf cd, i realized i would rather be shuffling through All the Nation’s Airports than ever, ever taking Amtrak 3000 miles again. If they went the way they should, I could have been there yesterday, but they take the most ass-backwards route. We stopped in Ogden, Utah last night. My new neighbor is from London, England. He likes Oasis, but other than that, he seems a fair bloke. I finished Fear of Dreaming last night and started reading the Nick Cave book And the Ass Saw the Angel. So far, so good, but I am wondering where it is leading to. As I remarked to Paul, the London guy, this is a most un-punkrock train, and he laughed and called it the Geriatric Train.
I am at the peak of my boredom, and if I had an air rifle, I would be shooting bb’s at the crew members for sport. As I listen to the new Descendents cd, I want to speed up this train to make up for lost time, since we’re going to be an hour late as it is. Spend four days and three nights on a train and see if you don’t go insane. Last night I ate dinner with a woman and her son. They were traveling from Greeley, Colorado, so I am pretty sure the kid was in the Smurf gang. They were traveling to Boise to visit her daughter.

The contest:
Question one: What is your name?
Question two: Name a famous personality that you think to be widely disliked.
Question three: (two-parter)
part one: What is your favorite past time, that we can repeat over the Public Address system?
part two: Where would you like to be most in the United States?

(The resulting poem will read like the Match Game. Except, without Charles Nelson Reilly, it is quite lame.)

There are old people on this train who know what elderberries taste like. They mention this and all I can think about is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I fart in their general direction. They bore me. I spoke to some guy from Portland this morning, who was drinking a beer at 10 am. He spent a week in Boise. I think they should make a movie called “Things To Do in Boise When You’re Drunk.”
Utah is even boring to the English. In his folly, Paul had originally scheduled a two day layover in Ogden. Once he got there and slept, he realized “this place sucks” and smartly hopped a train to Seattle. I wish I could have hopped a plane to Seattle when I got to Chicago. One day on a train was plenty. Three days is a good way to get yourself committed to an asylum. You’ve got to be nuts. I think I must be. We’re still about 200 miles from Portland. Egad, man!
“The jury has reached a verdict, your honor...This train is never going to reach Seattle, Washington. All its passengers are doomed. Bwa ha ha! This train shall be a traveling Purgatory. You get almost there, and then we yank you back!”
What I’m getting at is, not only are we an hour behind schedule as it is, but now there seems to be ANOTHER TRAIN on our track, and our conductor knows not how to get around it. Fucking genius, man! For lunch, a hamburger. No fries, only blue tortilla chips. BLUE!! We are not even in Portland yet. We will never be in Portland, so we will never get to Seattle. How can I go to work on Tuesday if I can’t even get to Seattle by mass transit? There is talk that they are discontinuing use of the Pioneer line (as this treacherous trek is called). I say “Go for it! Just get me the fuck to Seattle before you shut it down!”
I can’t take it anymore! I just want off this hell-train! I want to live again! I need a shower, perhaps a shave. I need to get to Seattle soon so she doesn’t get too worried. I didn’t think I was asking too much, I just wanted the damn train to get to Seattle in less than four days. Last time I expect a train to do ANYTHING! Outside, a train moves. So do we. Forty-five minutes to pull off this maneuver. Jesus H. Christ! I will be so happy when she is at the station to meet me. You will most likely never see a happier man. So much for seeing Hovercraft, though. Figures, doesn’t it?

13 comments:

Kristin K said...

Oh my god, where to begin? First I love that this was a million years ago and you are talking about eating a bagel. Ha. You and the bagels, oy. Next I am originally from Cheyenne, Wyoming and a lot of my family still lives there and in Laramie. Hilarious. Worst place ever. Yuck. Best time I ever had in Wyoming was accidentally running over a bird. Also the Smurf gang bit? Brilliant. I may have peed a little on that one.
This was such a detailed account of one man's quest for love turning into a journey into madness. Well done Amtrak! This also scares me because I am taking a train to Detroit this June and now I fear I will become even more insane. Old people bother me. Ick.
Needless to say, reading this was the highlight of my day. Awesome.

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Anonymous said...

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Beach Sloth said...

This is excellent. You have everything so heavily detailed here. Perhaps its this obsessive quality that makes it so entertaining.

What I see here convinces me not to take the train to Seattle, if I decide to move there (which may happen in the not-so-distant future).

My favorites in here were the Spiderland and Bedheaded references. At some point I plan on writing a review for Spiderland, that album got played over and over again until I memorized each and every part.

Hopefully you continue to write. Your writing has a "pre-internet" quality to it, like you're busy transcribing your past life into various blogs. It is charming that way. Just wanted to give this blog some encouragement.